The exhaustion is like nothing I’ve known…
I’m convinced you have a special kind of adrenaline with your first baby, a magic chemical mixed in with your swirling hormones that makes waking up in the dead of night feasible. With Zianne, I would power through 3am wake-ups, intent on a “full feeding on both sides” just like all the books advised. I remember ordering a shirt on my phone in the middle of the night because I was alert and in the mood for some online shopping. I was adamantly against co-sleeping, so I would never dare doze off with the baby in our bed. Instead, I remember walking around the room with determination, patting Zianne to sleep before slipping her back into her crib. I was so energetic, it was as if I was sneaking in a workout before my six-week visit with my OB.
Talitha had the wonderful trait of being the best sleeper of any baby I’ve known. She started sleeping 4 hour stretches at night our first week home from the hospital. Had she been my first, I would have diligently set my alarm to wake and feed her every three hours, but I was tired and she was gaining weight. Her four hour stretches grew to five and then six hours in just a few weeks. There were a few times we would both fall asleep in my bed mid-nursing session, because my tiredness overcame my caution about co-sleeping, but for the most part Talitha was a dream of a sleeper. I felt more rested than a mom of a newborn should.
And then you came along, my sweet third daughter, and I am tired. Oh so tired. I have no adrenaline for middle of the night feedings. None at all. I fall asleep with you in my arms or hanging off my breast every night. You are a more typical newborn, waking up every 2 to 3 hours to fill your growing little belly. And I stumble around the room in the semi-darkness, trying to feed you and change you and settle you with my eyes half open. I pray every night that you will sleep for three or more hours at a time, because I am desperate for rest.
During the day, my eyes ache with lack of sleep. I sit on the couch holding you, as I watch your older sisters play and fight and toss their toys around the living room. My body grows even more weary as I consider disciplining them or cleaning yet another mess.
You lie on my chest, breathing steadily, your whole body rising and falling to the motion of your baby lungs. You give me a half-smile as you sleep. They say it isn’t a real smile until you are six weeks old, but I’m convinced there must be something genuine about it. You must sense that I don’t sleep at all on your behalf. Your eyelids flutter and your lips break into a small grin as if to say, “thanks mom.”
And in that moment, with my tired, stinging eyes, my aching back, and my exhausted mind, I can only piece together one thought…
“I get to be your mother.”
The privilege overwhelms me.